Archive for July, 2016

Weekly roundup 31 July 2016

Lecture: Dr Jaime Tsai Marcel Duchamp and the Arensbergs (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

Lots about what art might be, how it is received. There is the idea the artist could choose what was art, what was valuable. With that choice and the recontextualised object, originality, craft, authenticity and singularity were no longer given characteristics of art.

The artist’s personality and intention shouldn’t define the meaning of the work.

How do those two ideas fit? The artist’s choice and action define an object as art, but not its meaning. Perhaps only part of its meanings.

NGA Textiles collection Behind the scenes tour
Nine fortunate people were on this tour, led by Debbie Ward, NGA’s Head of Conservation, and (I think – didn’t quite catch it) Micheline Ford, responsible for the textile collection.

First we went into the storage area (there is also off-site storage). A large area, not originally intended for textiles, a complex warren of mezannine levels, rows of drawers and roll-holders.

Huari band 600 - 1000 AD

Huari band
600 – 1000 AD

I’d seen this piece in 2014, in the Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru exhibition. What a privilege to be able to see it closely, directly. The catalogue describes it as warp-faced double-cloth, woven as a tube with four warps (apparently warp ends not on the surface in a pick are loose inside).

Ballet Russes

Ballet Russes costume

In a sub-group of four there was plenty of opportunity to ask all our questions as we were shown various treasures. NGA has a large collection of Ballet Russes costumes and documentation. On the left is a costume that has been conserved, showing the original blue fabric on top which has been stabilised, and modern supporting fabric below. In this instance the conservators decided to replicate the original hemline of the costume, as an important element of the design.

India For Indonesian market

For Indonesian market

Then up in the huge artworks lift to the conservation area right at the top of the building.

The long cotton length shown on the right has been in conservation around 6 months, around half way through the task. We were shown the multiple swatches of modern fabric that had been dyed to match different areas (using modern dyes so no possibility of colour running). Treatment of the many stripes showed the multiple aesthetic judgments made during the process. The modern fabric patching one hole had been painted with stripes to avoid visual jarring. In another hole the cloth was left plain – drawn outlines still in the original were sufficient to maintain continuity.

Walking carefully past Pollock’s Blue Poles (undergoing a condition report prior to its trip to London – link), we went to the newly refurbished members lounge for wine, cheese, and some more questions including Eva Hesse’s Contingent (in its current state conserved as an object rather than a textile) and Robert Morris’s felt work (how to support the areas taking that enormous weight).

I actually joined as a Member of NGA for this tour (previously relying on reciprocal rights as a member of AGNSW) and made a special visit to Canberra for it. Thoroughly worthwhile.

Seen in Canberra

  • Agnes Martin. For some time now I’ve been wanting to see a work by Agnes Martin. Her name keeps cropping up – in the context of orthogonal structures (29-May-2016), in reading on Abstraction and Process (2-Nov-2014), in my final essay The Stripe for Understanding Western Art… Three of Martin’s works are currently on display at NGA, and I finally got to spend some time with them. The NGA now allows photography but the ones I took aren’t worth showing.

    Martin said “I don’t have any ideas myself. I have a vacant mind” (Martin, 1997, 1:03). I arrived at the works with an agitated mind – just before we’d arrived at our Canberra accommodation to discover some issues that eventually led to our extra-long weekend becoming an overnight stay. Twenty minutes with Martin’s works, looking and thinking, moving back and forward, trying to take a decent photo, examining the ways her lines interact with the subtle variation in the paint beneath, how they always end before the edge of the canvas… I was calm, glowing.

  • brancusi

  • Constantin Brancusi Bird in Space. These works used to be downstairs in what was an indoor sculpture area, a very high gallery with some external light. They were in a square pond. Now they are upstairs, up on a platform. The ceiling is lower, you can get a little closer, and the works are much more imposing. Instead of reflections in the water they are surrounded by intricate and rather beautiful shadows.

    Very interesting the different effect this placement has. The works looked more massive, heavier, less likely to spring into the air.

    In recent reading related to my grids and folds interest, I’ve come across Brancusi’s Endless Column – one example at Moma (link). The pedestal is an independent form, a rhythmic line that could extend vertically to infinity.

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

    Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus

  • Bruce Shapiro Sisyphus, seen at Questacon. A sandtable is shaped by a moving ball, controlled below the table using magnets. Mesmerising to watch. You can see more on his website – Look for the time lapse video. Not as calming as watching the real thing unfold, but still amazing.

    Mixed Media for Textiles results. MMT Marksheet I wasn’t expecting these for a few more weeks, and to be honest at first was a little disappointed with 65. Most of the comments (the personal overall ones on the second page, not the boilerplate on page 1) were generally positive, but clearly the assessors are looking for more. It was a bit of a bump from the last one (85 for Understanding Western Art) and a hair under 66 for A Creative Approach, and I think I’ve grown enormously since then.

    Quite quickly that final phrase came to the fore – I have grown enormously since then. My goals for MMT had nothing to do with marks (they were Make the course my own; Take risks and challenge myself; Surprise myself; Enjoy myself). Indeed I quite often chose to ignore or vary course requirements to follow my own interests, consciously putting my own purposes over academic requirements. There were also all the small choices I made to move on, to stick to my timetable. There are places where the research was less rigorous, where I could have pushed for a little more resolution of some exciting experiment, and I chose not to. I always claim the mark doesn’t matter, it’s the learning and growth I want. I learnt heaps, I had a great time doing it, I’m proud of what I’ve done. I feel fine about the mark because it’s not the point. It’s rather nice to discover that, having caught my breath, my response lives up to my ideals.

    Reading and thinking
    Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.
    This book accompanies an exhibition of the same name, still on in Los Angeles. Wish I could get there.

    So far I’ve read the foreword and first essay – “‘What can be done, what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, materials, and narrative in the 1950s” by Elizabeth Smith. The essay focuses on Ruth Asawa, Lee Bontecou, Louise Bourgeois, Claire Falkenstein and Louise Nevelson. I can’t summarise the points that particularly spoke to me. It would be the whole thing. It will have to appear in bits and pieces, inspiring and influencing further work.

    I’ve been feeling daunted quite often over the past few months. Looking up from my studies, beginning to follow my own interests, the world is suddenly a much larger place. So many leads to follow – and without the focus and timetable of assignments.

    Thinking about grids, folds, dimensions and infinity, so I noticed a little explanation of a wormhole and folding space in a movie. Which led to some internet searching on topology and suddenly bumping into Leibniz again (see reading of Gilles Deleuze 24-Jul-2016). It also led to set theory – another bump because we were talking about that at work this week (in the context of data visualisation software we use). Then Brancusi came at me from a couple of directions. And it seemed every second sentence of Elizabeth Smith’s essay, and almost every endnote, was to be a new lead to be followed up. And none of that has led into new actual work, an actual thing (yet).

    Any advice on how to deal with this would be very welcome. At the moment I’m trying to focus on enjoying the ride, the process, and not ask “Are we there yet?”.

    Martin, A. (1997) “Interview with Agnes Martin done in Taos, N.M. Nov 1997 by Chuck Smith and Sono Kuwayama” [online] Available from Accessed 28 September 2014

  • Weekly roundup 24 July 2016

    The grid?
    Another approach to dimensional weaving, following on from 11-Jul-2016. Aluminium insect mesh, corrugated (thinking this gives additional stability and flexibility). The technique was inspired by Flora Friedmann’s basket, seen in Basketry NSW’s Fibre Stories exhibition (10-Jul-2016) – or at least my imperfect understanding of it.

    sample -aluminium mesh with twining in progress

    sample -aluminium mesh with twining in progress

    The base is a plain weave square, the X of corner ribs added later. To move into 3D I used twining – at least that’s what I think it is, subject to correction. I used thin black cord for the twining weavers, enough to have a presence without dominating the transparency of the mesh.

    Initially the ribs of mesh were kept straight, but the mesh just visually disappeared – I really wanted overlaps and differing densities. I initially thought of bulges and irregular shaping, but I don’t have the skills to do that deliberately nor to manage the rough edges of the ribs catching on each other and generally being awkward.

    So every second circuit I started swapping the positions of ribs, twining around two together, then each rib separately in the next round.

    Sample with curled top

    Sample with curled top

    When I ran out of length on a couple of the ribs I tied off and curled the top of ribs with excess length. Not a great result – there’s just too much mass, curling down and obscuring the weaving below.

    So I straightened things up, gave it all a pull around, and cut down the longer ends.

    Finished sample

    Finished sample

    There’s a lot of energy in the result. Inside and outside connect. I particularly like the dynamic lines of the weavers, pulled and bent by the strength of the mesh ribs. I’ve suddenly remembered the pretend writing I used to do as a small child, before starting school. Those lines contrast well with the almost-ordered interlacing of the ribs.

    I’d like to try something similar using perhaps a fine red leather cord for the weavers – about the same weight but more assertive. With experience I might be able to get folds and more movement in the ribs, but if doing that I might need more regularity in the weavers to maintain contrast. It would have the advantage of further confusing interior and exterior, again pushing for that extra dimension.

    Front view

    Front view

    I’ve also tried rearranging my earlier depth weaving (first seen 11-Jul-2016).



    Sample in earlier arrangement

    Sample in earlier arrangement

    Instead of overall chaos, in two corners I’ve taken out the extra folding lengths so the weave of the elements is more obvious. The non-tightened corners have become even wilder, accommodating the excess length.

    I think the weaverly nature is more apparent, and an unanticipated advantage is a diagonal movement in the long looping lengths, moving up from left to right in the front view shown above. The price is perhaps a little less sense of exuberance, the folds not moving so much into a new dimension but just looking a bit untidy in ordinary 3D.

    Sketching / printing
    This started with some “calligraphy” paper from last week’s shopping. I wanted to try writing with pen and ink on this paper, but I’m currently finding plain text less interesting than almost-text.

    1846 letter by John Chester Jervis

    1846 letter by John Chester Jervis

    I’ve been helping my mother with a family history website, and a letter written by a great-great(etc) uncle suggested an approach.

    Next some text was needed. Recent research led me to The Fold by Gilles Deleuze (pdf from

    Deleuze text, crossed

    Deleuze text, crossed

    Apparently “In The Fold, Gilles Deleuze argues that Leibniz’s writings constitute the grounding elements of a Baroque philosophy and of theories for analyzing contemporary arts and science. A model for expression in contemporary aesthetics, the concept of the monad is viewed in terms of folds of space, movement, and time.” (

    Deleuze text continued

    Deleuze text continued

    I’ve read as much as filled one crossed page and one plain page. I have no idea of what the text means. I’m planning to continue reading, just to see if I can catch any meaning but that’s for another day (I strongly suspect there’s a lot more other reading that would need to be done to make sense of this work).

    Back to the “sketching”. In the page with crossed lines the text as written works as non-text, with the bonus of orthogonal lines. I wanted to add more layers, so did some printing with the gelatin plate – the first since project 4 of MMT (7-Dec-2015). The plate has been sitting, covered, on a bench in the garage. There was a tiny spot of mould on one corner, easily wiped away. Impressive.

    My printing approach was inspired by the look of yarn works by Mike Kelley (for example I’ve only read a little of the artist, and don’t know how he conceived of these works. In my printing I decided to drop some lengths of yarn and a bit of plastic netting onto the inked gelatin plate, to act as a resist.

    Deleuze text, overprinted

    Deleuze text, overprinted



    Above is the crossed writing and a ghost print from the gelatin plate. There may have been some additional ghosts of ghosts.

    I like both the idea of folds of colour on the text of The Fold, and the unreadability of a text I found unreadable (or at least un-understandable). The text and its meaning are opaque, while illustrated by a trace of folds on a page with no folds.

    Second page of text, overprinted

    Second page of text, overprinted

    The second page is less obscured and less interesting. It doesn’t excite me as the first page does.

    I’m not sure where this experiment may lead. The process seemed a nice flow of one idea leading to and informing another, perhaps of different strands of investigation coming briefly together. Possibly I’ll put it to one side for the moment, but it is tugging on me. I think there could be something there. Could more layers, something entirely different, work? Should I fold the pages?

    The printing was enjoyable, and I made some additional ghost prints on the same light calligraphy paper. It might be interesting to try to write on these. I wonder if it would be harder to keep on line. Or perhaps I should try to write following the lines of those folds.

    I like the level of detail that the ghost prints give, but of course there needs to be a print first. A large piece of cartridge paper was sitting nearby, and it received all the bits and pieces.

    A couple of levels of detail shown here. The full page is about 64 x 76 cm, too big to photograph meaningfully. I intended this as a possible base for later sketches, but the colour is a bit strong. Perhaps a light gesso or some collaged tissue paper could be tried. I definitely want to start moving beyond blank white in my sketching.

    This experiment was based on the recent Joomchi workshop with Angela Liddy (10-Jul-2016). In my earlier post I wondered about “molding a very light paper around plaster vessels, looking perhaps like a discarded skin when displayed together, a contrast in solidity.”

    This weekend I attempted it – a single layer of unryu (mulberry paper). I tried using an orbital sander on the dampened paper which was protected by thin plastic. I was looking for a lacey effect but it really didn’t work, just a few holes. Cling film was used to protect sample p5-11 from MMT project 5 (23-Feb-2016). The damp and fragile paper was also encased in cling film, to keep it together while I molded it over the plaster vessel.

    Paper and plaster samples

    Paper and plaster samples

    The result is underwhelming. The paper wasn’t as airy as I wanted, plus I hadn’t reckoned on the multiple layers formed in the molding. The result is heavy, pedestrian, not delicate. Much of the delightful detail of the original plaster is lost. The general shape of the plaster is captured, but the protruding corners of the paper make it look like a lumpy skirt for Morticia.

    Paper with internal lighting

    Paper with internal lighting

    A small LED inside the paper vessel lifts it a little. In this photo the shapes of the two vessels show the beginnings of a correspondence – the paper shell seems to offer something extra, there is some shadow interest in the uneven blocking of light. In fairness I think the glow of the plaster is wonderful, so it’s a hard ask for something else to add to it.

    Paper trimmed

    Paper trimmed

    Trimming those odd, leaden feet of the paper have lifted it further. There is now some movement, a sense of a twirl of dance, in the vessel. The plaster remains beautiful and serene while the paper provides movement and life.

    It could be worth trying this again with white paper. I saw a beautiful fine white mulberry paper while shopping last week – but at the first store visited, so didn’t buy it. Perhaps worth another trip. An alternative could be a light open-weave fabric, perhaps cheesecloth, using CMC to mold and then stiffen it.

    I’m continuing to work through the essays in Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag. I’m getting so much from it, so many leads (see Mike Kelley, Gilles Deleuze, ideas of threads liberated from the surface but not in my prints, confusion of interior and exterior etc above). I get impatient, conscious of the ever-growing book pile, but there is just so much meat for me in this very large volume. There’s no point rushing on to something else. Given the ever present time constraints I’ve chosen today to write about the actions leading from the reading, rather than the actual reading points.

    Last week I mentioned Textile: Cloth and Culture Volume 14 Issue 1 March 2016. Just noting here that it’s a great resource for ideas about modern craft, collaboration, performance.

    This week’s lecturer was Kendrah Morgan, the topic “Movers and shakers: John and Sunday Reed at Heide”. I had some basic knowledge of the topic, but this took it much further. It was a solid, information-filled hour. Main outcome – must visit Heide Museum of Modern Art (

    Weekly roundup 17 July 2016

    It’s been a week of more activity than thinking / processing / writing. Lots of unfinished threads still being followed.

    A dot list will have to do, some to be fleshed out when I have time or progress to a better review point.

  • Lecture: Craig Judd Chalk and cheese: Dr Albert C Barnes and Gertrude Vanderbuilt Whitney (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
  • Exhibition: Julian Rosefeldt Manifesto, AGNSW (link).

    I’m watching this film installation in small bites, a little each time I’m at the gallery. Plus reading the catalogue/book.

  • Exhibition: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera: from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, AGNSW (link).

    Very popular and busy. I’ve only heard people talk about the “Frida” or “Frida Kahlo” exhibition, no mention of Rivera. Apart from the work itself, leaves me thinking about “Art” and fame and purpose and history (Manifesto coming into this strongly too).

  • Exhibition: New Romance: Art and the posthuman, MCA (link).

    Fun with dystopian futures?

  • Exhibition: Telling tales: Excursions in narrative form, MCA. (link)
  • Reading: Emmanuel Petis “Architecture in the age of disentangled authorship: Textile impulses since the sixties” In Brüderlin, M (ed) (2013) Art & Textiles: Fabric as material and concept in modern art from Klimt to the present Stuttgart: Hatje Cantz Verlag
  • Reading: Juhani Pallasmaa (2011) The embodied image: Imagination and imagery in architecture Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd

    Ongoing. I’ve been working on this a couple of weeks now and it is challenging – physically as well as intellectually, given the size of the print and the occasional use of mid-green on white.

    Slow reading as I keep drifting into an internal debate. The author writes about art generally, but with a particular focus on architecture and a particular point of view about aesthetics. Not sure I want my art to fit within this art. (see Manifesto above)

  • Reading: Textile: Cloth and Culture. Volume 14 Issue 1. Dated March 2016 but arrived in the mail this week.
    I subscribe to this journal and it’s great for different perspectives and for finding whole different areas of textiles I’m unaware of (endless quantity of those 🙂 ).

    This issue has the particular theme Crafting Community, leading to yet more musing on “Art”. I usually try to avoid quite so much thinking about all these labels and power struggles (meaning over the definition of a word), but it’s coming up everywhere I look.

  • Reading: Anthony Doerr All the light we cannot see
    A novel, so wouldn’t normally reach this blog. Perhaps I can pretend it’s relevant given the non-linear narrative structure, which connects to the MCA exhibition, but in honesty it’s a wonderful and appalling read – no further justification required.

    My mother was 11 and living in an industrial city of Englands’s north when WWII was declared. She’s given a copy of Doerr’s book to each of her children because it’s meant so much to her.

  • Basketry NSW (link).
    I wrote about their current exhibition last week (10-Jul-2016).

    I’m now a member, having just enough experience to qualify. I’m excited – basketry techniques seem to offer some of the structural and sculptural properties I’m looking for. Plus there are monthly gatherings, each person working on their own projects. A possible counterweight to the isolation of distance learning.

  • Shopping Another thing I wouldn’t normally mention, but there is a link. I now have a stock of beautiful colours of mulberry paper – as used in Joomchi felting (10-Jul-2016) and paper coiled baskets (19-Mar-2016). I’m hoping to be able to combine ideas from these two workshops in a personal project, ready for my first Basketry meet.
  • Grid / depth weaving. Work continues. I’ve been trying a couple of different arrangements of the warp and weft of the metal sample (11-Jul-2016). The shopping expedition included acquiring some fairly open steel mesh, which could work in this project.

    Not enough to show yet.

  • Grid / depth weaving progress

    dimensional weave

    dimensional weave

    26-June I mentioned a plan for a corrugated metal and much crisper/neater version of the cardboard and fibreglass sample I showed 12-June-2016.

    Here it is.

    dimensional weave sample 20160708

    dimensional weave sample 20160708

    The frame uses an aluminium framing system intended for insect screens.The corrugated cardboard has been replaced by embossing-weight aluminium embossing foil, the fibreglass insect mesh by aluminium insect mesh.

    Both the foil and the mesh responded well to the crimping tool. The framing system worked very well to keep the strip ends firmly in place.

    I like the idea of a surreal fly-screen.

    Some more views.

    The major ideas which might be coalescing at the moment:

    Formal strategies
    * weave structures
    * corrugations – creating light, shadow and movement. Also firm up the loops.
    * metal – reflections

    To explore ideas of
    * Fontana’s infinite dimension – “[cutting] between the space occupied by the viewer, through the surface of the canvas, to the space that lies beyond” (12-Jun-2016)
    * The orthogonal – exploring / breaking that constraint? constant? in weave
    * gravity – partner to orthogonal.

    Layered charcoal

    Layered charcoal

    It looks much lighter and more open than the cardboard sample. The scale is larger, the looping exaggerated, and the reflection of the metal corrugations seems very important. They are near parallel, but keep changing and cutting directions. This became more apparent when sketching the work.

    The frame is visually light. It defines a plane, but is supportive rather than insistent.

    What’s next?
    * Rearranging the metal sample to various areas of looseness and more grid-like.
    * Trying different materials through the crimper. I’d like to take better advantage of the reflections.
    * I want to do grid-influenced sketching. Don’t know what that means yet.
    * Frames within frames? Can I extend this structure?

    Weekly roundup 10 July 2016

    Workshop – Angela Liddy Joomchi (paper felting)
    This one day workshop was run by Primrose Paper Arts (link). I’m not a member of the group, but they were very welcoming and it was an enjoyable day.

    Tutor Angela Liddy introduced us to Joomchi, a traditional Korean technique in which layers of paper are fused or “felted” together to create strong, textured, flexible material that can be stitched, painted, embellished, used in clothing, sculpture, – the list goes on.

    Joomchi - sample 1

    Joomchi – sample 1

    On the right is my first attempt, getting the basic technique and looking at colour layering.

    The technique itself involves adding water while layering the paper, then manipulating by hand to break down fibres and encourage bonding of the layers. It feels reminiscent of felting with wool, with a few key adjustments. The actual bond formed is different as well, without the major entanglement of fibres and shrinkage that you get with wool felt. My impression is that any shrinkage in Joomchi is caused by the wrinkling texture created.

    In this first piece folds used during the manipulation process have left a grid impression on the finished sample. A rookie error, but given my current grid explorations it could turn out to be a happy accident to be explored further.

    Sample 2

    Sample 2

    Sample 2, backlit

    Sample 2, backlit

    Traditionally 15 or more layers of paper may be used if creating material suitable for warm clothing. In contrast, in my second sample I aimed for something light and fragile in appearance. This sample has two sheet of paper, aubergine and red, cut to leave areas with gaps or just 1 layer. A single layer woven effect I attempted in the centre didn’t work out, but adds to the fragile, tentative effect. The backlit view is particularly effective. The piece is reasonably firm, but I could tear it fairly easily.

    The paper used for this is important, but is described in multiple ways. It was sold by the art shop as “mulberry silk paper”, 100% mulberry tree fibres, 25 gsm. We were advised if we couldn’t get this to buy “kozo paper with long fibres showing”. On checking back at home I confirmed it is the same type and weight of paper as we used in Lissa de Sailles basketry workshop earlier in the year (19-March-2016), where it was described as hanji paper. A Korean travel website describes hanji paper as “the paper of Korea”, the main material being the fibrous skin of the mulberry. Claire, also at the workshop (her post), has described the paper as unryu, tissue style mulberry paper that often includes strands of Kozo fibre, mainly made in Thailand. Looking up “kozo” I find it is Broussonetia papyrifera, paper mulberry tree.

    Single layers of paper - (left) as purchased and (right) manipulated

    Single layers of paper – (left) as purchased and (right) manipulated

    So made of kozo / mulberry, tissue / 25 gsm, inclusions. I suspect unryu is the precise term, hanji more generic, kozo and mulberry different languages for the fibre source, and “silk” a total misuse. On the right is a little comparison I made, the original paper on the left, a wetted and manipulated piece on the right. The inclusions seem to provide some stability, and you can get some lovely lacey effects – more than shown here where there were no supporting layers (it can easily tear or drift apart when wet).

    Sample 3

    Sample 3

    I shaped my final sample, three full layers and some decorative pieces, over a mold while drying. The resulting vessel is very light but quite tough and holding its shape well. It was the sculptural potential which attracted me to this workshop. I’m thinking of molding a very light paper around plaster vessels, looking perhaps like a discarded skin when displayed together, a contrast in solidity.

    Exhibition – Basketry NSW Fibre Stories
    Primrose Park is home to a number of groups in addition to Primrose Paper Arts, including Basketry NSW. During a break from Joomchi I visited their current exhibition, Fibre Stories.

    Brenda Livermore Seven Walks

    Brenda Livermore
    Seven Walks

    There was a wide range of work. I really enjoyed the sense of a solid foundation of traditional technique, interpreted and extended with modern eyes, materials and shapes.

    Brenda Livermore tells a story of the materials seen on walks, the collecting, inspiration, ideas that can be found in daily life for those looking. Brenda was at the Joomchi workshop, and also in Ruth Hadlow’s class earlier this year (25-Feb-2016) (also the full week class I missed 😦 ). I like the way she’s made the materials the stars of this piece.

    That respect of materials, the sense of artists highly alert to the world around them, always looking for possibilities, was common in the exhibition. My selection of photographs here is more based on lighting and placement that assisted my tablet camera.

    Nicole Robins Lute for a small bird

    Nicole Robins
    Lute for a small bird

    Nicole Robin’s main interest in this work was to use local fibres with a technique taught by a recent visiting US-based tutor, Mary Hettmansperger. This random weave was attempting new, sculptural ways with the materials, which included star jasmine, jacaranda, Dracaena draco, fabric, and Bangalow palm spathe.

    The materials express their strong individuality. Given my own recent MMT work I’m very attracted to both the sculptural and the exploratory nature of the work.

    Lanny MacKenzie Earthy Tanah Lot

    Lanny MacKenzie
    Earthy Tanah Lot

    The provided description of this piece by Lanny MacKenzie made me smile – “Made from recycled telephone & fridge cabling, using twining & Neolithic weaves.” The work is inspired by a climb up to Tanah Lot in Bali, and the mud encountered.

    The eccentric shape and the uneven weave filtering the light create an animated work, almost dancing on its plinth.

    computer wire, neoprene, whipper snipper

    computer wire, neoprene, whipper snipper

    In terms of materials this reminded me of the little bowl I made after a short workshop with Aaron Broad at AGNSW (15-Aug-2013).

    Sample p5-10

    Sample p5-10

    Sample p5-11

    Sample p5-11

    Its eccentric shape brings to mind some of the MMT samples, p5-10 and p5-11 (14-Feb-2016).

    Flora Friedmann Free wheeling

    Flora Friedmann
    Free wheeling

    An asymmetrical shape in possibly more traditional materials was this work by Flora Friedmann. It is made from dyed coral pea vine and Bangalow palm leaf sheath. It was quickly made, responding to the materials and exploring techniques. To me there is an energy, a tension, in the vessel. It looks controlled but wayward.

    The base appears to be the grid of plain weave, carried on into open twining. Light bulbs flashing here – is there something I can use for my own grid experiments?

    Basketry NSW Wild Animals

    Basketry NSW
    Wild Animals

    On one wall were a series of works made by members of Basketry NSW at a recent Wild Animals workshop taught by Bryant Holsenbeck. No individual names were given, so that’s the extent of attribution I can make.

    I came away feeling that basketry is in my future – and a little bit in my past. Previously I’ve been concerned about wrist strength required and the natural materials which have never attracted me for my own work. That now seems a little narrow-minded and worth testing.

    Fraser Taylor and
    Fraser Taylor’s work has struck a chord with me, especially in his Orchid/Dirge installation at Threewalls. There is repetition, smaller pieces building up into a larger work; the importance of interiority and exteriority; the sculptural installation; cutting across media and disciplines; the fragility and an engagement with uncertainty; the foundation in drawing and exciting mark-making; experiment and improvisation; a sense of depth in space and time. It’s not-quite familiar and not-quite comfortable. It’s complex and sensual and delicate and ruptured.

    “Landscape and body act as metaphors, their meanings located somewhere in the interstices between figuration and abstraction”. That’s an area I’d love to be exploring.

    I’m hoping to use some ideas from this in drawing and making exercises soon.

    Diana Guerrero-Maciá,,

    I mentioned this artist briefly last week. Her work challenges distinctions and labels of genre and process. It is incredibly dense in terms of historical references – art, literary and social history. The materiality of the work is important, it uses craft as a way of thinking. The work is radical and steeped in history.

    Possibly this is the first time I’ve read of the use of textile techniques “as a formal strategy”, creating texture and depth in a very deliberate artistic approach. I’m also appreciating more and more the ability of textile to provide an abstract vocabulary while also being incredibly rich in cultural meaning.

    There are words and phrases, creating form as well as giving meaning. I’ve been thinking about about the use of text – some current reading happening which I’ll be able to write about in a week or two. At the moment I’m attracted by the idea of not-text. Something familiar but foreign that catches the threads of your mind. Jenni Sorkin has written of Guerrero-Maciá’s works “they stand on the precipice of the declarative, but in the end, are devoid of language.”

    Reading: Edmund De Waal The white road: a pilgrimage of sorts
    This was a wonderful read – warm, personal, full of information, insights and non sequiturs. It rummages and circles through history, making friends and confidants of “witnesses” in the story of porcelain. At one stage I was reading furiously – what happens next? who will make the breakthrough? the risks, the failures – just 240 years ago. De Waal quotes philosophers and poets, scientists and artists. He wonders, explains, discovers, flounders.

    Some points and phrases that caught my eye:
    * “… process is not be be skated over. The manner of what we make defines us.”
    * Interiority as an idea – the inner nature of the thing.
    * De Waal writes of his own work, the making, but also exhibitions, collections. Complex rhythms, repetition. Over the course of the book he builds up his own collection, installation, of white objects. After my MMT final work I want to try again.
    * the structure, the flight, of music and art and making.
    * the humanity of working notes and failed experiments, broken shards.
    * shadows. An installation looked “beautiful in the shadows… Beautiful because you cannot see them in their entirety, pinned down and accessible. … shadows push profiles away. You can gain the shape of an idea by losing its particulars.”
    * “Thinking is through the hands as well as the head.”
    * Above all the depth and layering of research and meaning. It takes longer than expected or wanted, takes him to unexpected places and ideas. The curiosity, and questioning, and building up of a framework of knowledge and understanding, a platform to jump from.

    The Grid
    sample_20160708_detail2Progress has been made. More in a separate post.

    Weekly roundup 3 July 2016

    A quiet, tired week, so a short roundup.

    Lecture: Jackie Menzies Charles Lang Freer (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).

    Freer retired relatively young and very rich in 1899. He became a connoisseur of art, knowledgeable, discerning, travelling widely, meeting many of the artists whose work he collected. He had money, time, networks, and the energy to travel.

    Freer was particularly interested in Asian art, and Jackie Menzies described how he was able to break down some of the “exotic other” by his visits. Freer also collected many works by Whistler, and was advised by him. Many of the works Freer collected, Asian and Whistler’s, used ambiguous space, and colour harmonies.

    Expertise, connoisseur-ship, validation: There’s been a long exchange on the OCA student forum, triggered by my questioning of a tutor’s comment “Remember validity is in the eyes of the viewer.”

    Apparently it’s up to expert others, perhaps like the connoisseur Charles Lang Freer, or an academic, or … someone else in some (shady?) line of precedence, to validate work as art. My current stance is that’s fine for those who want to, but no-one owns the word “Art”. Obviously I see value in tertiary study and all that entails, but I hope I manage to maintain an open mind and an attitude of skeptic and not one of the gang.


    Kay Murray

    Kay Murray

    This weekend was meant to be a two day Mixed Media Collage workshop with Kay Murray. Unfortunately I ran out of steam in the afternoon of the first day and didn’t get to the second. Nothing to show – I’ve got a few paper and fabric collage backgrounds started, but no development.

    Some interesting techniques, more textile-centric than I’ve been for quite a while.

    Another of those co-incidences, today I came across a text by Jenni Sorkin on a 2012 exhibition by Diana Guerrero-Maciá ( There’s lots more of Guerrero-Maciá’s work on her website,

    Only a skim read of Sorkin’s text (my mushy brain), but it starts with links to art history (Russian Suprematism), a touch of psychology with group identity, some social references, then the use of textile techniques as both a formal strategy and as cultural sampling. Very much the academic validation of the work.

    There’s thinking to be done here, but not just now.
    I’ll try to catch up on the rest next week.


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    Calendar of Posts

    July 2016
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